Rebecca McCarron just may be the ideal poster student for the University of the Ozarks’ LENS program.
The senior from Covington, La., is graduating on Saturday with Magna Cum Laude honors with a major in health science and minors in English and business administration. The unique combination of disciplines is a trademark of LENS, which stands for Learning Environment for New Synthesis. LENS was implemented at Ozarks in 2016 as a new academic model to provide students a more customized and diverse educational experience. It allows students to choose a major and two minors, all from different academic divisions.
McCarron, who plans to pursue a career in occupational therapy, said her particular areas of study fit perfectly within both her personal interests and career ambitions.
“I originally chose health science as a major and business administration as a minor in order to be an occupational therapist who could run her own practice,” McCarron said. “English came into the picture because literature is a hobby of mine. Over the course of my years here, I realized my major taught me the science, but my minors taught me how to communicate more effectively with others and to be able to analyze and assess situationally. I believe they fit together nicely because, like the LENS program was intended, I am able to pull knowledge and information from any of the areas to have different perspectives for any given situation. I think that will be beneficial in a career that is always evolving. I appreciate that in my LENS arsenal I am able access the scientific, the hard line of rationale and the creative.”
A member of the women’s soccer team for four years, McCarron earned all-conference honorable mention honors as a freshman before a string of knee injuries kept her off the field and in the training room for most of the next three seasons. That experience of rehabbing and recovering was the impetus for her career choice and is something she believes will make her a better occupational therapist.
“As I was going through my clinical experiences, I definitely found myself relating to patients that I observed, even more than I thought I would,” McCarron said. “I hope to have a career in the pediatric occupational therapy field, and I chose this path because I wanted to help individuals, especially the youth, find a independence within themselves that they may have thought wasn’t possible because of a disability or illness. Believing in yourself and working to achieve your goals is an amazing feat. I want to be able to help others accomplish those feats.”
McCarron said the injury experience also helped put things in proper perspective.
“I’ve just learned to appreciate every second of everything I get the opportunity to participate in,” she said. “I used to have a mindset that I ‘had’ to do this or that but now my mindset has changed to ‘I have the chance to’ or ‘I am able to.’ You never realize the things you take for granted until you lose the ability to do them all together. I also learned that you can still be a part of something without being the biggest contributor. I like to consider myself the glue to the team these past few years because I was able to bring everyone back together for one purpose and that was to be grateful for the opportunity to play collegiate soccer.”
Serving as a student ambassador and an Ozarks Experience mentor, McCarron was one of the University’s biggest cheerleaders and advocates, especially when it came to helping recruit prospective students and showing them around campus. She was reminded of that recently when a freshman, whom she escorted around campus on a tour as a prospective student, stopped her to talk.
“She remembered me giving her a tour last year and she came up to me and thanked me,” McCarron said. “She told me that she came to Ozarks because she fell in love with the stories that I had shared during the tour about the professors and all the experiences I had. She said she wanted to have experiences and stories like that too and then she told me that she had already had those experiences during her first semester. That’s what is great about Ozarks; the connections and memories you create here. And those connections and memories can begin immediately. It will be hard leaving behind the memories and people that I have grown to appreciate having around me because they represent what Ozarks is all about.”
McCarron said that when she walks across the stage on Saturday to receive her diploma, it will be the relationships she’s developed at Ozarks that she will be most thankful for.
“I will forever remember the relationships I have made here,” she said. “I am so thankful for the professors, coaches, teammates and friends that have pushed me to be better than I originally was. I will never be able to show how much appreciation I have towards all of them for helping me strive toward my goals.”
And, as if right on cue, the future occupational therapist provided another strong testament to the LENS program by quoting a symbolic line from the novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a book she had recently read in a class led by English Professor Dr. Amy Oatis.
“As I told Dr. Oatis, I intend to carry the fire into whatever comes next for me, and I am able to thank Ozarks for that,” McCarron said. “Ozarks will always have a place in my heart as home, and one day I hope to return the favor to the place that helped me start on the path towards achieving my goals.”
By Jake Sawyer
Fourteen years ago, University of the Ozarks English Professor David Strain had an idea only a mad poetry scientist could cook up. Strain and his fellow English professors were looking for a way to boost submissions to the department’s annual Falstaff literary magazine when inspiration struck from an unlikely source: the reality TV show Project Runway. That epiphany would eventually become the annual Project Poet competition, which is currently enjoying its 14th season as a cornerstone of Ozarks campus life.
No one has seen the impact of Project Poet more than English Professor Brian Hardman, who served as the host for nine seasons of the event, more than any other host.
“I was interested from the start because of how unique the event was, and I loved the idea of giving students across campus a creative space to push themselves and to share their voices,” Hardman remembers.
Project Poet’s run at Ozarks has seen a number of transformations on campus and has changed itself along the way.
“The event has moved locations several times, which has allowed it to grow and evolve. The show is also more sophisticated in its use of atmosphere and production quality, and the talent has increased year after year,” Hardman says. “I hope it continues to grow and evolve, and I hope that it continues as a powerful venue for students to express their talents, voices, and experiences.”
Though the venue and atmosphere may have changed over the years, the competition itself is essentially the same. Each fall semester, one member of the English department sends out a poetry challenge to the campus community, and the students who enter must submit an original poem that meets the challenge, which may vary from a poetic self-portrait to a sonnet or haiku. There are five separate challenges over the five-week competition, and the poets must write a new poem for each challenge.
The poets themselves come to Project Poet from all walks of campus life and for all sorts of reasons. Some, such as Jarret Bain, a junior psychology major from Nassau, Bahamas, enter Project Poet as a way to get out of their comfort zone. “I didn’t expect to get very far, but whether or not I made it far, I was in it for the experience,” Bain explains.
For Bekah Moore, a senior biology major from Alma, AR, what was initially an extra credit opportunity quickly became a new passion. Though Moore’s high school had largely treated poetry as “a necessity that students and teachers alike were more than willing to cross off of their to-do list,” she was blown away by the inclusive artistic community she found at Ozarks through Project Poet. “The reverence this campus has for the arts, and its various forms, will always amaze me,” Moore says.
Both Bain and Moore placed among last year’s five finalists, and their diverse backgrounds and motivations are not unusual in the competition.
“Project Poet draws students from across campus and from all disciplines,” Hardman says. “It really says something that, as often as not, English majors aren't the ones who always win the crown of Poet Laureate of the Spadra Valley.”
Entering a poem for the challenge is only the beginning though. After writing their original poem, the poets must perform it before an audience of their peers and a panel of three faculty judges, all of whom vote for their favorite poems. For most contestants, this performance is the most stressful component of the competition. On the night of Project Poet, many of the poets arrive early to Munger-Wilson Chapel, pacing the flagstones of the chapel plaza or rehearsing their poem one last time. Then there is nothing to do but watch the trickle into the room until the host pulls a name from a faded tweed cap: “Next up, welcome to the mic”— and the applause roars.
The stress is real too. As the Project Poet motto goes, “In poetry, one day you’re a bestseller, and the next you’re out of print.” Each week’s challenge ratchets up the difficulty to a new level, and each week a few of the poets “go out of print.”
This season’s contestant pool has narrowed to the five poets who survived the semifinal round, or “Winter Formal,” which is arguably the most difficult round, as it requires the poets to compose in strict poet forms such as a sonnet or villanelle. The five who “stayed in print” qualified for the Project Poet Finale during Homecoming Weekend. There they will vie for the title of Poet Laureate of the Spadra Valley, as well as the $1,000 cash prize that comes with it.
Despite the high stakes involved, for most contestants Project Poet is as much about collaboration and personal expression with other poets as it is about competition.
“Every time I come into this project, it’s with the mindset that I am able to share parts of my unique human experience through a healthy platform that encourages creative thinking and honest expression. The fact that I get to participate for one week, or three, or five makes no difference,” Moore explains. “I consider myself extremely lucky to have stood beside such a unique and admirable set of poets.”
Bain seconds her opinion. “I’m honestly not a huge fan of competition,” he says, “but being able to go up against other talented poets has been an enlightening experience.”
For Bain, the moments before he steps to the mic are often ones of humility. “I usually think about how great everyone else is, and that if I lost then I deserved it because everyone else has worked hard to earn their spot.”
If the past years of Project Poet have proven nothing else, it is that no one can predict who will end up with the Poet Laureate crown, and if asked, the current poets will agree. One thing is certain though: they will be at the final round on October 19th, either to perform their own work or to support their friends. As Moore sums up, “One thing Project Poet never fails to do is surprise me. Participating or not, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
(Editor’s Note: The Project Poet Finale will take place in the Robson Library rotunda at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, during Homecoming Weekend and is open to all students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni. The five finalists are, Jarret Bain, Lily Marlow, Bekah Moore, Chava Roberts and Maddy Windel.)Lauren Dotson, a senior English major from Harrison, Ark., took home top honors in Season 13 of the University of the Ozarks' Project Poet competition. A total of 28 students entered the annual multi-week, fall semester competition that started in mid-September. In the following weeks, several poets went out of print until five remained, competing against each other in a lively finals episode on Oct. 26. Dotson won the top prize of $1,000 and the title of Poet Laureate of the Spadra Valley for 2018. Rebekah Moore, last year's co-champion, finished runner-up and took home the $500 second prize. Chava Roberts, Jarret Bain, and Marcelina Pop received $250, $150, and $100, respectively "Over the course of the season all Project Poet poets wrote thought-provoking poems about various subjects, poems infused with love and grief and grace," said Chris Carrier, adjunct English professor and coordinator of this year’s competition. "They made Ozarks a richer, more beautiful place." Project Poet began in 2006 as the brainchild of Ozarks’ Professor of English, Dr. David Strain, and his former colleague, Dr. Kendrick Prewitt. The competition challenges students to draw on their creative writing skills and their wit, and is open to students from any program on campus. Based on Bravo TV’s program "Project Runway," the poetry competition presents contestants with a new challenge each week. Contestants read their entries before the panel of three faculty/staff judges, and the audience, who acts as the fourth judge. When all votes are tallied, one contestant wins immunity for the next week’s challenge, while two or three others go “out of print.” The contestants who make it through to each successive round are given more difficult challenges as the competition progresses. Since 2006, more than 300 students have competed in Project Poet. Academic, author and pop music critic Jack Hamilton will discuss his recent book, “Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination,” at University of the Ozarks on Wednesday, March 28. The event, which is a part of the University’s Walton Arts & Ideas Series, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Rogers Conference Center. The public is invited and there is no cost for admission. Hamilton is an assistant professor of American studies and media studies at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 2014. His first book, “Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination,” was published by Harvard University Press in fall of 2016. He is also the pop critic for Slate magazine, where he writes about music, sports, and other areas of culture, and his work has appeared in The Atlantic, NPR, ESPN, Transition, L.A. Review of Books, and many other venues. In “Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination,” Hamilton declares his intent to “disrupt the stories that we have told ourselves about what we’ve partitioned as ‘black music’ and ‘white music’ and to identify what we are actually talking about when we say these things.” By putting rock music titans in conversation with artists they’re not usually connected with—Bob Dylan and Sam Cooke; The Beatles and Motown’s Funk Brothers; Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and Janis Joplin—Hamilton introduces a new level of understanding of some of the most popular music of all time. Hamilton cited one example as The Rolling Stones. In the early 1960s, they emerge out of London as a group of white British kids who are curiously obsessed with the blues and soul, what was considered to be black American music. In the mid-1960s, the Stones are celebrated for their fluency in that tradition, but by the end of the decade, “instead of being viewed as channelers of the authentic, they are the authentic, and that’s a weird shift,” caused partly by the fact that recognition of the Stones’ engagement with their influences slipped as the band’s own story grew, said Hamilton. Mick Jagger becomes “the real thing,” and not just “the white British kid who can sort of sing like Muddy Waters.” Hamilton was born and raised in Boston. After spending a few years as a professional musician, he received a B.A. in English from NYU in 2003 and a Ph.D. in American studies from Harvard University in 2013. He spent the 2013-14 academic year as the inaugural postdoctoral research fellow at the Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Hamilton is currently working on a book about music and technology since 1970. For more information about Hamilton’s talk at U of O, please contact the Office of Public Relations at 479-979-1433. Award-winning singer, songwriter, author and public speaker David LaMotte will present several events at University of the Ozarks as part of a two-day visit on March 13 and 14. All of the events are free and the public is encouraged to attend.
ScheduleMarch 13 · Speaking at Chapel Service, 11:30 a.m., Munger-Wilson Memorial Chapel · Lecture titled, “World Changing 101,” 7:30 p.m., Rogers Conference Center March 14 · Songwriting and Poetry Workshops, 3:30 p.m., lower level of Munger-Wilson Memorial Chapel (students only) · Concert, 7:30 p.m., Rowntree Recital Hall in Walton Fine Arts Center LaMotte’s lecture, “World Changing 101,” explores the questions of how we are called to engage the world around us and how to practically approach that work. Through story, historical and cultural analysis, and discussion, LaMotte examines deeply embedded narratives of how large scale change occurs, and questions their accuracy and utility, then offers a fresh framework to examine our capacity for significant impact on the world, and practical steps to discern our callings and pursue them.
MusicLaMotte has performed concerts in all 50 states and released 12 full-length CDs of primarily original music. His music has been honored with numerous awards and artist grants, and has been featured on dozens of artist compilations. Notably, his song “Dark and Deep” was included on Songs Inspired By Literature, Chapter One, a benefit CD to raise money for adult literacy. Several independent films feature his music, and it has been heard on the Today Show and the Showtime television series This American Life. The Boston Globe writes that his music “pushes the envelope with challenging lyrics and unusual tunings, but he also pays homage to folk tradition,” while BBC Radio Belfast lauds his “charm, stories, humor, insightful songs, sweet voice and dazzling guitar ability.”
BooksHe has published three books, including two illustrated children’s books. The first based on his award-winning children’s song “SS Bathtub” and the second, “White Flour,” tells the true story of a creative, effective, and whimsical response to a Ku Klux Klan march in Knoxville, Tenn., by a group called the Coup Clutz Clowns. His most recent book, “Worldchanging 101: Challenging the Myth of Powerlessness,” is being used as a textbook in universities in the United States and Australia.
PresentationsLaMotte has presented at the PC(USA) Mission to the United Nations and has served as the keynote speaker at peace conferences in Berlin and at the Scottish Parliament, as well as offering the baccalaureate for 2016 graduates of Columbia Seminary. As a keynote speaker, and then Critical Conversations Coordinator, he has facilitated conversations about race, privilege, and positive change for thousands of college students at the Montreat College Conference. His TEDx talk on what music can teach us about peacemaking was published in January of 2018.
AboutIn 2004, LaMotte and his wife, Deanna, founded PEG Partners, a non-profit organization that supports literacy, critical thought, and artistic expression in Guatemala. He continues to serve as the President of PEG. He is also a consultant on Peace and Justice for the North Carolina Council of Churches, and served as Clerk the AFSC Nobel Peace Prize Nominating Task Group. As Jake Sawyer was reading the Office of Career Services' weekly Career Corner newsletter last semester, a line under the internship opportunities section with the title, "BookTrails: Steamboat Springs, Colorado," suddenly caught his eye. "As an English major and an avid lover of the outdoors, the plain combination of "book" and "trails" in the same sentence was very intriguing," said Sawyer, a University of the Ozarks freshman from Mena, Ark. "I looked up their website and immediately decided it would be the perfect fit." Sawyer will spend 10 weeks this summer in Colorado serving an internship with BookTrails, a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy and the outdoors for children. The series of week-long camps combine reading and writing exercises with nature hikes and outdoors education programs. Each camp will have a different theme or book series that the students will focus on, such as a survival skill camp based on Gary Paulsen's "Hatcher" series, or a pioneering camp paired with "The Little House on the Prairie." Sawyer secured one of the program's four internships from more than 200 applications. He's also one of only a few freshmen to ever earn an internship with the program.
Sam McFall is going to law school when he graduates from Ozarks in May. As with any aspiring law student, he applied to a lot of places, hoping naturally to be accepted in a good program, with maybe a back-up acceptance just in case.
So far he has been accepted at UALR, Tulsa, St. Louis University, and Michigan State - and waitlisted at Washington University, the latter a top 25 law school. "He's catnip to admissions personnel," says Dr. David Strain, division chair of Humanities and Fine Arts and a prelaw advisor.
"Actually I started out thinking I might go to medical school," says McFall. "Then I took some pre-med classes and decided that wasn't for me. In my sophomore year I was an accounting major for awhile. Finally I settled on English, with minors in History and Economics, and decided I wanted to study the law."
Sam McFall, a senior English major, has received acceptance letters from a number of law programs.
He says there are several components in the law school application, and he worked hard on all of them. "You write your personal statement," he said, "as well as taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). You also have to get your letters of recommendation. You do all that stuff as early as you can."
McFall says he put all his writing skills to use in his personal statement. "A lot of the purpose of the personal statement is to show the law school how good a writer you are," he said. "I really concentrated on making sure my writing was crisp and clear. It feels good to know I have a good grasp of the language, that I can make an argument and justify my statements on paper."
One major factor everyone applying for law school is the LSAT. McFall attributes much of his success there to Dr. Strain's course "Critical Thinking for Pre-Law Students." He recommends the course for anyone in his position.
Dr. Strain explains the course: "I developed it six or seven years ago, when I began doing pre-law advising in the humanities," he said. "I spent a summer taking old LSAT exams and testing out the advice I found in various prep books. In the process, I boiled everything down to what I consider the basics. That's what I share with the students I work with. Because a good LSAT score demands speed, method is extremely important. However, what's important about method is developing one that works for them, not mastering somebody else's. After I've shared with them what works for me and they've gotten used to the exam itself, we begin trying to identify weaknesses in their individual performance - a certain section of the exam, a certain type of game or question, a certain portion of a given section. We then work on ways to compensate for that weakness. They do literally dozens of sections from sample tests, and before they take the exam, they sit for three mock exams - 3.5 hours each - under simulated test conditions."
So far, Dr. Strain says, every student but one who's taken the course has scored above the national median, and three of the thirteen have scored in the 90th percentile or above. "Most people think a high score is important because it helps gain acceptance at prestigious schools, and that's been true for several of our students," he said. "However, even more important is the fact it can help to secure very generous scholarships for law school. Since many graduates leave law school as much as $120,000 in debt (not counting student loans from college), a scholarship can keep career options open that might otherwise be unaffordable. I can think of five or six of our recent pre-law students who have been offered renewable scholarships in $15-20,000 range."
McFall says he's thinking of accepting the offer from UALR "unless I hear good news from Washington University."
What has the Ozarks experience meant to Sam McFall? "I've always been a quiet person," he said, "but since I've come to campus I feel that I've opened up as a person. And the academics - especially in the English major - is really reading and writing intensive, and since that's something I'm going to be doing constantly in law school, I feel that the U of O curricula, not only in English but in Economics, History - it has really prepared me well for what I am about to deal with. It made all this possible for me."